Deep-fried and served on a stick or wok-fried and served with chopsticks, food is one of the strongest connections between Minnesota and China.
Food is not just something to eat. It’s a reflection of taste and culture and geography and more. Food says a lot about people. It’s why we find the food in other countries and regions so interesting.
So it makes sense that Governor Mark Dayton’s trade mission to China has a strong emphasis on agriculture and food. It makes dollars, too. A whole lot of them.
China is Minnesota’s top market for agricultural commodities and related food products, with purchases of $1.35 billion in 2010.
“That accounts for more than one-fourth of Minnesota’s agricultural exports,” says state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who is traveling with the delegation.
“In the past 10 years, our ag exports to China have jumped 800 percent, mostly driven by exports of bulk and intermediate commodities,” said Frederickson. “China’s the top buyer and the main market for Minnesota soybeans and a growing market for our pork.”
And it’s not just commodities. Sales of processed foods were $202 million. Push a cart through the aisles of a big supermarket in China and you’ll find more than a few iconic Minnesota food brands on the shelves.
Trumpeting the Bugles®
At one time or another, most Minnesota kids have eaten Bugles®, those crunchy, cone-shaped corn snacks made by General Mills that small children especially love to wear on their fingertips like a witch’s fingernails.
But unless you’ve been in China, you’ve never eaten “Seaweed” flavored Bugles®. In the Chinese market, the snack is made with potatoes, corn or rice and comes in dozens of flavors. In fact, Bugles® has become the leading brand among non-potato chip snacks in Greater China.
Curious how they market Bugles® in China? Take a look at this commercial on YouTube:
As Governor Dayton leads the state’s trade mission to China June 8-June 17, he is joined by many businesses and organizations representing Minnesota agriculture. China is the state's top foreign market for agricultural commodities and related food products, accounting for more than a quarter of Minnesota's agricultural exports. Agricultural businesses, food service companies, and other farming organizations join the larger delegation with the goal of fostering trade relations between Minnesota and China.
Among the farming companies that compose the delegation is Knewtson Soy Products, a family owned and operated farm in Good Thunder, Minnesota that exports 90% of their soybean production to food and feed manufacturers, with customers in several Southeast Asian countries. Additionally, Hastings Co-op Creamery, a 98-year-old company currently marketing milk and milk products for 105 dairy farmer members/owners, and Superior Feed Ingredients, a company based in Waconia, will also join the Governor as members of the delegation.
Also included in the delegation are key members of the food service industry, such as Dombrovski Meats, based in Foley, Minnesota, a family owned company, wholesale manufacturer, and national distributor of the highest quality meat products [see featured profile below]; Midwest AG Enterprises, Inc., a Marshall-based manufacturer and supplier of high quality feed ingredients for the livestock industry in China; and Michael Foods, the world’s largest egg processing company, based in Minnetonka, whose newest facility is located near Beijing.
A key part of Governor Dayton’s trade mission to China is convincing Chinese companies that Minnesota companies – and Minnesotans – are worth investing in.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the direct investment into production in a country by a company located in another country, and Minnesota has been a beneficiary of FDI from China. When Chinese companies invest in Minnesota companies, it allows those companies to expand and increase their production – this creates more jobs for Minnesotans, and provides a benefit for Chinese companies when companies they have invested in do well and provide extra profit. Chinese FDI in Minnesota has risen from $151 million in 2008 to $390 million in 2011.
Graphic: Chinese FDI in Minnesota by year:
One recent example of FDI, and how it benefits Minnesota, comes from Duluth last year. Since 2011, the China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company (CAIGA) has invested nearly $100 million into the Duluth-based company Cirrus Aircraft. As a result, Cirrus has been able to expedite its aircraft development programs and accelerate the company’s global expansion, helping make the Cirrus brand more successful and prominent in the marketplace. CAIGA’s investment also allowed Cirrus to develop a new aircraft, the Vision SF-50, a project that will create hundreds of jobs in Minnesota.
Three major Minnesota universities are currently participating in Governor Dayton’s Trade Mission to China. The University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State University, and Metropolitan State University have each seen substantial growth in their relationships with Chinese universities, students, and faculty in recent years, and the current trade mission offers all three an occasion to strengthen current ties to China, and to also create new partnerships. Below is a brief overview of each university’s connections to China, as well as their objectives for the current trade mission.
University of Minnesota
The first Chinese students attended the University of Minnesota in 1914. Today, of the 4,500 international students, faculty, and staff at the University, over 1,400 are visiting Chinese scholars and students, the largest Chinese population of any campus in North America. In 2004, President Robert Bruininks led an official University of Minnesota delegation to China to facilitate educational exchange and promote cultural understanding. By 2009, the University of Minnesota launched its first official office abroad in Beijing, which provides support for students, faculty, and staff traveling to China on official University business. The University’s rapport with China has consistently progressed in recent years, leading to a growing Chinese presence on campus, which the current delegation will continue to encourage.
St. Cloud State University
Saint Cloud State University (SCSU) has developed deep international relationships and agreements over many years of interaction. St. Cloud State University has active relationships with more than 25 overseas universities and institutions through their Center for International Studies, including eight Chinese universities. The partnerships include student and faculty exchanges and participation of Chinese students and faculty in a summer training institute on the SCSU campus.
The partnership with Shanghai University of Engineering Science has taken individual importance during this trade mission. St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter, a veteran of four governor’s trade missions, anticipates meeting with the new president of SUES, Xiaodong Ding, during the trade mission. In addition, both SUES President Xiaodong Ding and the institution’s previous president, Dr. Wang Hong, now governor of the industrial/port district in Shanghai, have both been invited to attend a reception with Governor Dayton.
Today, Governor Dayton will lead a delegation on a ten-day trade mission to China, traveling to Beijing, Shanghai and Xian (the capital of Shaanxi Province) for market and industry briefings, business match-making events, networking events and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese government officials. The 50-member group of business, industry, education and government leaders will attend market and industry briefings, networking events, and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese officials.
The delegation will also host multiple receptions for top Chinese government officials and business executives to showcase Minnesota companies and export industries, as well as promote the state as an ideal destination for direct investment by China. Minnesota has had an official relationship with China since signing the sister-state agreement with Shaanxi Province in 1982.
As the trip unfolds, the Governor’s office will be covering the delegation in a special blog series that explores how trade missions foster new relationships via commerce, agriculture, trade, and the environment. You can get daily updates on the delegation by signing up for our e-mail list, checking back on the blog, or following Governor Dayton on Twitter and Facebook. We will showcase highlights of the delegation, highlight our sister-province relationship, and post photos of the Governor’s meetings across the state. We hope that you will travel along with us as the Minnesota delegation embarks on its trade mission across China.
Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk and Minnesota Management & Budget Commissioner James Schowalter were recently selected for the prestigious Toll Fellowship Program sponsored by The Council of State Governments. Governor Mark Dayton nominated Cronk and Schowalter for their leadership in state government and work on reform initiatives. Cronk and Schowalter are two out of 48 state leaders from across the nation selected for the program. Both commissioners were selected from many outstanding applicants by a committee of state elected and appointed officials as among the most promising leaders of state government. Most states have one nominee selected, so this is undoubtedly a great honor for the State of Minnesota to have two qualified nominees in the program.
The annual week-long seminar, named in honor of Henry Toll, a Colorado senator who founded CSG in 1933, seeks to develop the next generation of leaders from all three branches of state government. This year's dynamic program, held in Lexington, Ky., focuses on trends analysis, policy development, and leadership and institutional changes. The experience gives these leaders perspectives they would not ordinarily obtain during the course of their regular governmental service.
As the Commissioner of Administration, Cronk focuses on enhancing inter-agency cooperation and eliminating unnecessary redundancies in order to create a leaner, more cost-effective government that delivers high quality, professional services to citizens. He previously served in the Bloomberg administration as Executive Director of Organizational Development and Senior Advisor for the Department of Small Business Services for the City of New York.
Lt. Governor Prettner Solon convened the first meeting of the “Own Your Future” Advisory Panel, a group charged with guiding a statewide public awareness campaign to encourage Minnesotans to plan for the care they will need as they grow older.
The group aims to raise awareness of the importance of advance planning in ensuring that Minnesotans have more control and more choice in meeting their long-term health care needs. The focus of the panel is to develop and implement strategies to increase the number of Minnesotans who take action to address and provide for their future long-term care. “We need to engage all Minnesotans in thinking about how they will plan for and pay for the care they are likely to need as we, as a society, are living longer and growing older,” Prettner Solon said.
In addition the panel will aid in the development and review of materials for use by Minnesota employers, grassroots organizations and community groups, and provide outreach assistance in a public awareness effort. The Lieutenant Governor expressed gratitude “for the assistance […] of Minnesotans representing key sectors of labor, business, health care, the faith community and non-profit organizations” in working towards these goals.
Governor Dayton and his administration are always looking for ways to help farms and businesses prosper in Minnesota. One of the simple but really effective tools the Minnesota Department of Agriculture makes available is a Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms.
It’s clear that organic food has gone beyond fad to a mainstream choice for many consumers, and we want to help Minnesota’s organic farms and food companies capitalize on this interest. Organic food (and even organic feed for animals) must contain organic ingredients and here in Minnesota we grow a lot of these ingredients. Our 700+ organic farms raise organic corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, flax, soybeans, sunflowers, milk, eggs, beef, eggs, chickens, fruits and vegetables, and just about anything else you can think of. To make it easier for Minnesota’s organic food companies to use organic ingredients in their products, the Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms was created. It lists farmers who sell in quantity to “intermediate buyers” such as food companies, restaurants, grocery stores, brokers, etc. The buyers can look up the farmer by product (“blue corn” for example), or by county, if they are looking for farmers close to their manufacturing facility or store. The directory is available in print and online at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic
The Dayton administration is proud to announce that Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger has been selected to receive the 2012 Child Advocacy Award from the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MN-AAP). He will received this award at MN-AAP’s annual awards dinner Friday.
According to MN-AAP, the Child Advocacy Award goes to an “individual from the community who goes above and beyond his or her everyday routine to advocate for the health and welfare of children in Minnesota.”
In addition to Governor Dayton, Dr. Ehlinger’s nomination for the award was supported by incoming MN-AAP president Dr. Robert Jacobson. “Health professionals in the private and public sector agree that Dr. Ehlinger has been an extraordinary advocate for children, especially the poor and marginalized,” Dr. Jacobson said. “We are fortunate to have a commissioner who demonstrates his commitment to keeping children and their families healthy on a daily basis, despite countless challenges.”